Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Beginning Writer Quirks

No one - and I mean no one - starts out as an expert.  Sure, there may be a few savants like Mozart, but the reason they're so famous is that they're so rare.  No writer I know of ever began as a great storyteller.  Stephen King once said he has enough rejections to wallpaper his house, and each one improved his skills.

As such, all writers have quirks, and beginning writers have many more than experienced writers.  As we gain that experience, we get rid of things that don't work, and we incorporate what does.  The only true teacher on this is time, so I thought I'd go through a list of my own quirks I had, and I'm willing to bet I'm not alone in this.

1.  New writers trend towards the liberal use of modifiers.  All of our works rely on description, whether it be detailed enough to paint exactly what we want the reader to see, or just enough to tease the spirit and get others to envision what we want them to see.  It's the second part that's so challenging, which is why, at the beginning, most of us use more adjectives and adverbs than many can stand.  Our characters are "insanely intelligent" and "extremely well built, with rippling muscles and very large biceps."  They all "run quickly" and "take care for great aim of their silver plated pistol."  After a while, we learn how to narrow the focus to get what we want without going overboard, but it's not something we tend to get at the start.

2.  Paranoia.  I wrote about this not long ago, but it deserves another mention.  We're all so convinced that we've found an idea everyone will want that we hide our work away from the world, scared to death that some unscrupulous soul will steal it.  With maturity comes the knowledge that no one is going to come after us until we've become famous, and we acquired rights to our work the instant we set it on paper.

3.  Egos of crystal.  To be fair, many writers retain this throughout their career, but it's especially pronounced in newbie writers.  Our writing is our baby, and we'd be just devastated if someone told us we stink.  In fact, a bad review might lead us to put our work in a drawer and never show it to another person ever again.

4.  Supreme arrogance.  This is the flip side of the point above.  Despite being concerned that someone will tell us we stink, we're equally convinced that we're better at this whole writing thing than anyone out there.  JK Rowling?  Pfft, she'd be lucky to have our skills.  Harry Turtledove?  We've read his stuff and know we've got a better grasp on storytelling.  After all, we're driven to write, and we wouldn't be so driven if we weren't so good at it.  Other, less talented writers need that annoying stuff like beta-readers and editors - we can just vomit out a story and it'll be perfect.

5.  Lack or originality.  Some of you will look at this and be shocked that I dare call anyone who took the care to put their idea on paper unoriginal.  Unfortunately, for 95% of us, myself included, we tend to liberally...um...borrow from others.  I don't mean a verbatim stealing of words, but we'll work in that which we've already seen.  It can be as small as a character(the chief engineer of the starship in my very first completed book, one I've since trashed, was a Scotsman), or it can be large(a friend of mine asked me to read his story, which, with a few minor details altered, read like a Lord of the Rings novel).  We incorporate these ideas because we loved them in what we read, and the similarities don't really hit us.  After some time, we learn that we don't need this, but it's hard at first to abandon what worked for us.

There are a few more, but you get the idea.  Anybody out there have quirks of their own that have dissipated as they grew?

No comments:

Post a Comment